Last Updated on November 17, 2023 by Toni
Our list of the best career options for Social Workers are only a few of the opportunities available when you pursue a career in social work. Completing a CSWE-accredited undergrad or master’s degree in social work leads to abundant career path options helping people who need it most.
Started in 1955, the NASW now has over 120,000 social workers in diverse settings paving the way for communal changes that eradicate strife and injustice. This human services field has plenty of space for more philanthropic BSW and MSW grads to empower at-risk populations. In fact, the Bureau of Labor Statistics calculated a whopping 12 percent job hike for US social workers by 2030.
States with the Most Career Options for Social Workers
Utah, Texas, Maryland, Colorado, and Arizona currently boast the career’s fastest-growing opportunities. But the entire country is bracing for a 195,000 shortage next decade according to the Journal of Social Work. Let’s look into 20 greater career path options, in alphabetical order, for Bachelor or Master of Social Work graduates called to mission over money.
1. Adoption Social Worker
Children’s Rights reported that the United States foster care system is inundated with nearly 675,000 youth each year. If you are looking for a career change this may be for you! Adoption social workers are home placement specialists who help qualified couples welcome waiting kids into their embrace. They’re busy matching families at home and abroad, checking backgrounds, assessing child needs, evaluating living conditions, counseling new parents, aiding with legal paperwork, referring social services, and providing ongoing transitional support.
Average Salary: $40,499
2. Cardiovascular Social Worker
Heart attacks strike approximately 730,000 Americans and heart disease causes one in four deaths annually according to the Centers for Disease Control. Cardiovascular social workers are medical staff who develop psychosocial intervention plans for patients diagnosed with heart ailments. They’ll help explain the diagnosis, assess emotional needs, offer outpatient support, suggest lifestyle changes, refer community resources like nutrition classes, facilitate family conferences, and assist with end-of-life care if needed.
Average Salary: $43,365
3. Child Welfare Social Worker
The Joyful Heart Foundation warns that child abuse is reported every 10 seconds and claims five young lives daily on average. Child welfare social workers are youth protection specialists who process 7.2 million U.S. referrals yearly to ensure safe, nurturing guardianship. They’re tasked with investigating neglect claims, evaluating home life, framing intervention plans, conducting parent education, removing kids from deplorable conditions, coordinating foster care, and reporting abuse to police.
Average Salary: $42,712
4. Disability Social Worker
According to the Pew Research Center, 12.6 percent or nearly 40 million U.S. citizens struggle with disabilities like blindness, autism, Down syndrome, and physical impairment. If you are looking for a career change in Social work and enjoy helping people this may be for you! Disability social workers are ADA advocates who ensure handicapped people receive fair treatment and maintain the greatest independence. They’ll help obtain Medicaid, find adequate housing, teach assistive technologies, influence IEP creation, customize modifications, connect to support groups, lend vocational support, and fight discrimination.
Average Salary: $47,205
5. Environmental Social Worker
In 2010, the CSWE labeled sustainability as this century’s #1 biggest social issue. After all, The Guardian is reporting the Earth’s second-hottest year ever because of climate change. Environmental social workers are green enthusiasts who address the effects of global warming on people. They’re busy restoring after natural disasters, ensuring quality drinking water, locating reliable food, helping displaced communities, resolving pollution, teaching eco-friendly practices, and advocating clean energy.
Average Salary: $46,066
6. Family Social Worker
Estimates published by McKinley Irvin show that 41 percent of first marriages end in divorce for nearly 880,000 breakups per year. Family social workers are lasting bond creators who strive to keep happy home units together in positive relationships. They’re responsible for assessing family dynamics, pinpointing negative behaviors, mediating tough talks, aiding with crises like domestic violence, assisting with welfare programs, securing housing, giving parenting workshops, and restoring harmony.
Average Salary: $44,380
7. Forensic Social Worker
America’s prison system currently incarcerates over 2.3 million offenders in 1,719 state and 102 federal facilities according to SBS Viceland. Forensic social workers are criminal justice gurus who hold both policy and clinical roles in our jam-packed court system. They might evaluate defendants’ mental states, provide expert testimony, consult with police, rehab inmates, create correctional training programs, aid legal reforms, deliver victim assistance, weigh on parole boards, and prevent recidivism.
Average Salary: $51,266
8. Gerontological Social Worker
The Population Reference Bureau projects that 98 million U.S. citizens will be age 65 or older by 2060. Worries are growing that Alzheimer’s disease diagnoses could triple to 14 million by then too. Gerontological social workers are elderly care staff who specifically meet the needs of seniors for long, productive lives. They evaluate aging processes, address poor mental health, arrange social activities, stretch retirement income, refer medical care, and help rehab from injuries like falls.
Average Salary: $44,992
9. Healthcare Social Worker
Chronic diseases affect around 133 million Americans according to the National Health Council. That’s unsettling given the uninsured rate rose to 12.2 percent in 2017. Healthcare social workers are medical stalwarts often with LCSW licensure who help cope with difficult diagnoses.
Duties include acting as patient advocates, consulting with doctors, planning medical discharge, finding bill funding, referring housing like assisted living, transporting to follow-up appointments, watching for abuse, and offering friendly support.
Average Salary: $56,810
10. HIV/AIDS Social Worker
Once a death sentence in the 1980s, the human immunodeficiency virus is now treated in 1.1 million Americans according to Healthline. So, HIV/AIDS social workers are healthcare specialists who counsel current patients and help prevent over 40,000 new cases each year. They’re teaching safe sex methods, distributing condoms, designing infection control programs, promoting confirmatory testing, referring medical treatment, helping the diagnosed cope, removing the HIV/AIDS stigma, and treating epidemics abroad.
Average Salary: $41,446
11. International Social Worker
The World Bank revealed that 767 million global citizens live in extreme poverty, nearly 50 percent of whom are in Sub-Saharan Africa. International social workers are do-good travelers who concentrate on wide-ranging societal harms affecting foreign peoples. Across Earth, they coordinate global missions, counsel refugees, help access basic necessities, address trafficking, advocate for human rights, provide disaster relief, reduce gender biases, ameliorate conflicts, establish clinics, and plan epidemic prevention. Having a bachelor’s degree or a masters degree in this field is what you will need to get started.
Average Salary: $43,700
12. LGBTQ Social Worker
The 10 million Americans who self-identify as lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, or queer are two times more likely to be physically assaulted per the Human Rights Campaign. LGBTQ social workers are outspoken allies who ensure the wellness of people regardless of sexual orientation. They’ll encourage self-expression, counsel one-on-one or groups, provide suicide prevention, refer medical care, ensure equal opportunities, advocate for LGBTQ-friendly laws, research prejudices, and plan for gender reassignment.
Average Salary: $44,595
13. Military Social Worker
In 2016, the VA provided mental health treatment to 2.1 million soldiers returning from battle. Forbes reported that’s just 50 percent of the veterans needing it though. Military social workers are critical PTSD resources who help troops across five branches reacclimate to civilian life. They’re honorably working through war traumas, counseling separated families, securing GI Bill benefits, planning reintegration programs, securing veteran jobs, helping cope with injuries like amputations, and providing anger management. Having a bachelor’s degree or a masters degree in this field is what you will need to get started.
Average Salary: $47,371
14. Occupational Social Worker
The EEOC reported 84,254 workplace discrimination lawsuits in 2017 that cost $398 million for an average $160,000 settlement. Occupational social workers are labor development specialists who protect employees’ rights to just working conditions. Since the mid-1960s, they’ve analyzed corporate policies, explored alternative jobs, consulted with HR departments, communication skills, mediated labor conflicts, taught bias or sexual harassment training, done vocational assessments, started disability services, advocated equal opportunity, and boosted worker morale.
Average Salary: $46,186
15. Hospice Social Worker
At over 5,300 facilities, Johns Hopkins Medicine reports that 1.65 million U.S. residents receive palliative treatment for terminal diseases annually. Hospice social workers are end-of-life care specialists who improve the psychosocial quality of patients’ last days. They’re responsible for representing patient needs, increasing emotional comfort, explored alternative jobs, handling Medicare claims, stimulating social engagement, setting desired DNR orders, helping families cope with loss, preventing depression, and assisting with funeral plans.
Average Salary: $47,578
16. Psychiatric Social Worker
One in five, or 43.8 million, American adults experience mental illness every year reports the NAMI. Twenty-two percent of teens suffer several disorders like bipolar and schizophrenia too. Psychiatric social workers are diagnostic directors who develop holistic interventions for patients with high needs.
Their LCSW functions include conducting evaluations, giving inpatient-outpatient therapy, identifying co-occurring conditions, explored alternative jobs, setting reachable goals, tracking patient progress, plotting follow-up plans, and maintaining aftercare.
Average Salary: $52,965
17. Research Social Worker
The National Science Foundation boasted that cross-disciplinary research funding jumped by 6 percent to $66.2 billion in 2016. Research social workers are lab sleuths with MSW or PhD degrees who study today’s societal ills to support progressive community reforms.
They’ll apply for grants, examine social policies, form hypotheses, compile survey or observation evidence, correlate research data, publish journal articles, give conference talks, inform the public of findings, and lobby legislative bodies.
Average Salary: $47,445
18. School Social Worker
At the 98,817 public schools nationally, one in four kids has been bullied, 68 percent of students have failed tests, and 25 percent of high schoolers drop out according to DoSomething.
School social workers typically are PreK-12 sponsors who help youth succeed academically and outside the classroom for optimal development. They discuss learning issues, consult with teachers, work with high school teachers, develop actionable plans, address disruptive behaviors, reinforce positive changes, give parents referrals, intervene in crises, and influence building policy.
Average Salary: $48,204
19. Street Outreach Social Worker
Every night, around 553,000 Americans aren’t able to sleep in their own bed. The National Alliance to Homelessness stated that vagrancy increased by 0.7 percent from 2016 to 2017. Street outreach social workers are welfare activists who help the destitute find resources to get back on their feet.
They’re responsible for making contact with homeless persons, locating typical runaway spots, transporting to shelters, referring community aid, participating in neighborhood associations, and facilitating life skill workshops.
Average Salary: $38,300
20. Substance Abuse Social Worker
The 2016 World Drug Report showed that 247 million people globally intake illicit drugs like cocaine, heroin, meth, opioids, and hallucinogens. Substance abuse social workers are addiction specialists focused on helping people who’ve become physically dependent on drugs quit.
Substance Abuse Social Workers are important for aiding detox, providing recovery therapy, arranging rehab stays, preventing overdose, referring sober transitional living, coordinating 12-step programs, building relapse-stopping skills, communication skills and securing vocational options.
Average Salary: $42,450
Other Career Options For Social Workers
Other job prospects or an alternative career include social work administrator, housing development director, social policy analyst, case manager, grief counselor, wraparound facilitation supervisor, and recreational therapist, consulting jobs, working with community organizations, working in research projects, community outreach programs, be a high school teacher, career counselors, community service manager.
Here are a few of the skills Social Workers Develop:
- critical thinking
- interpersonal skills
- transferable skills
- human behavior skills
- technical skills
- organizational skills